Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants’ Omari Johnson, who hit the game-winner, goes in for a basket during the first quarter Friday against Erie’s Sanjay Lumpkin.
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Davon Reed dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the BayHawks at the Coliseum on Friday.
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Ike Anigbogu tries to push through several BayHawks players to get to the hoop during the first quarter at the Coliseum on Friday.
Saturday, January 12, 2019 1:00 am
Mad Ants 120, Erie 119
Buzzer-beater lifts Mad Ants
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
What's the capacity on drama that can be packed into 13 seconds of basketball? The Mad Ants and Erie BayHawks may have met it Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.
It culminated with a 120-119 Mad Ants victory – their fourth victory in five games – when Omari Johnson hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer, setting off a full-team court-side celebration.
“It was a good surge of emotion as we tried to pull that win out,” said Johnson, who had 20 points and a game-best 14 rebounds. “Davon (Reed) came up with a big block. Then, they came up with an even bigger block. But the ball fell into my hands and it was just the luck of the draw.”
It seemed as if the BayHawks (11-12) were going to put the finishing touches on a victory when John Gillon sent a floating pass with 13 seconds left to former Mad Ants player Alex Poythress in the paint for what looked to be a wide-open basket, but Reed came seemingly out of nowhere to block it.
Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey eschewed taking a timeout and allowed Tra-Deon Hollins to sprint down the right side of the court, spin and send a pass to Stephan Hicks, whose attempt for a layup was swatted away by Poythress. But Johnson got the leftovers and made a 12-foot shot that caromed off the glass and went in, as 2,375 fans celebrated.
“Man, that was a great feeling and I felt like we needed that, especially this being at home. We got the crowd into it and it worked out in the end,” said Hollins, who had 10 points, a career-best 15 assists and six steals for the Central Division-leading Mad Ants (13-11).
Rob Gray was an instrumental part of the victory, scoring 10 of his 22 points for the Mad Ants in the fourth quarter. Hicks also had 22 points for Fort Wayne, which recovered from an 18-point deficit.
“We talk about our culture and our identity. Toughness is one thing,” Gansey said. “Us being scrappy and having that grit. I was thinking about taking that timeout. But I knew T-D was going to try and pass it because that's pretty much what he does. I didn't want their defense to get a chance to set up. I was hoping something was going to happen and we're scrappy rolling in that paint there. ... It was a big-time bucket for us.”
Ike Anigbogu had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Mad Ants, who were without Alize Johnson and Edmond Sumner after they were called up to the Indiana Pacers.
“It's a next-man-up league,” Hollins said. “Those are two great scorers and rebounders in our league, but we had the opportunity to do something tonight and we did it.”
A huge part of the game was the Mad Ants' ability to contain Poythress, after he had 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting in the first half to lead Erie to a 64-59 lead. He was on pace to break the record for most points scored against the Mad Ants – 49 by Pierre Jackson of the Idaho Stampede on Dec. 14, 2013.
In the second half, Poythress was only 2 of 10 and finished with 34 points.
“They're a little bigger than us without Alize and we had to change up our game plan,” Omari Johnson said.
Note: The jerseys worn Friday, on First Responders Night, were auctioned off to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne.